Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera helped dispel some of the gloom that has hung over Manchester United in recent days as they ended their pre-season tour of the USA with a 2-1 win against Real Madrid.
But that hasn’t prevented mounting speculation that Zinedine Zidane is being lined up to replace Jose Mourinho.
It was a welcome fillip for the Red Devils at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, albeit if it came against a Real side playing their first game of pre-season. Not that Mourinho appeared that bothered by the result.
“The match doesn’t change anything,” said the perpetually morose Portuguese manager. “The result of the game today is not important. If you play Real Madrid in the Champions League that result is important, not today. I didn’t learn anything. I know what Herrera, Mata and Sanchez are. I know the kids are very young and need time to grow up.”
Herrera backed Mourinho in the post-match conference, saying that the absence of United’s World Cup stars had put the squad at a disadvantage Stateside, particularly as their stand-ins were mostly youngsters who wouldn’t feature again for the first team this season.
“It must be difficult for him to work with a group of players, maybe 50% of whom he’s not going to have in the future,” said Herrera. “You can’t really work tactically, because the guys you’re working with could be leaving, going on loan or going to the second team, so it’s difficult for him.”
Describing his fifth pre-season tour as “the most strange so far”, Herrera dismissed suggestions that Mourinho was a negative influence on his players.
Quoted by Goal.com, the Spaniard said: “I can just say that with us he’s very positive, he wants us to fight for the titles, he wants us to perform to our best, he wants us to work as hard as possible.
“But probably he’s not frustrated about the club or the market, he’s probably frustrated because he’s not able to work with the players that he’s going to have for the season.”
Zidane on the radar?
Will that frustration end with Mourinho and United parting company? According to The Sun, they understand from “Old Trafford sources” that Zinedine Zidane is being eyed up to replace Mourinho.
The paper claims that “the Special One’s pre-season meltdown has shocked players and staff” and contingency plans are being drawn up in the event that his frustration finally boils over.
The 46-year-old Frenchman sensationally resigned as Real Madrid manager in May after leading them to a third consecutive Champions League title, and it’s claimed that Zidane would relish the opportunity to relaunch his coaching career in the Premier League.